Friday, October 8, 2010

Best Before When?

So I'm out of orange juice, and I rummage around the fridge until I find some other (read "lesser") juice in the back with a "Best Before" date of 23 days ago.  What are the chances that I'll die if I drink it?  Actually, my wife thinks I'm crazy because I'm always eating and drinking stuff that's out of date (as I tell her, it's good to challenge your immune system once in a while - you know, the old MES - use it or lose it!)  Like any guy, the first thing I do when confronted by juice with a "Best Before" date 23 days ago is check the Canada Food Inspection Agency's website regarding Date Labeling on Pre-Packaged Foods, wherein I find that:  "Durable Life" means the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its freshness, taste, nutritional value, or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.  A "Best Before" date, also known as the "Durable Life" date, tells you when this "Durable Life" period ends.  (I'm not kidding you, that's a direct freaking quote from their website!)  "Best Before" dates do not guarantee product safety.  (Hmmm...then why, pray tell, is our government wasting money on this stuff in the first place?)  "Best Before" dates must appear on pre-packaged foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less.  However, the more onerous "Expiry Date" must be used on more serious items: formulated liquid diets, foods represented for use in a very low-energy diets, meal replacements, nutritional supplements, and human milk substitutes (infant formulae).  After the "Expiry Date", the food may not have the same nutrient content declared on the label.  Food should not be eaten if the "Expiry Date" has passed.  It should be discarded.  (Duh.  What, methinks, would you do with it otherwise?)  And then there's the "Use By" date: the Food and Drug Regulations state the terms "Use By" and yes, "Employez Avant", may replace "Best Before" for pre-packaged fresh yeast only.  (A special category for one specific food item - yeast?)  So, we know that foods with an anticipated shelf life greater than 90 days are not required to be labeled with a "Best Before" date or storage information, but ... is that 23 days past "Best Before" juice safe to drink?  I still don't know.  (I hope it is, because I drank it halfway through writing this.  If there's no post on this blog tomorrow you'll know what happened.  Don't send a card, send money.)